Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Geico – Multiple Personality DINU

In DINU on May 12, 2008 at 9:36 am

Who doesn’t love Geico ads? You know, the ones with the celebrities and the consumers? Or maybe the ones with the talking lizard. Or the cavemen. Or the older ones that looked like fake Fox reality shows.

(Click on the links to view some of my favorites) 

Wait a second, that’s four distinct concepts, all done with a startling level of depth and consistency. Isn’t Geico breaking some serious marketing law here? You can’t possibly create four different campaigns, and then run them virtually concurrently, speaking to the same audience. And yet, Geico must be doing something right, Warren Buffett is a big investor.While the Gecko may be the most ubiquitous, the Cavemen have really developed into a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU). From a super-clever website, Caveman’s Crib, to an ABC television show, these guys became part of pop culture (try typing roast duck mango salsa into Google). 

Most companies would be pretty excited with a hit like this. But Geico has another powerhouse with the Gecko. Now, I understand when a brand like Nike creates multiple advertising campaigns. They are speaking to a variety of audiences – women, young kids, skateboarders, weekend warriors, etc. But the Geico customer is a narrower group. And from a tonality standpoint, are the different Geico campaigns that different? Are there people who love the Cavemen, but think a talking lizard is dumb? Are there people who like fake reality show spoofs, but find the idea of the Four Tops singing in your bedroom absurd?

I see the benefits for Nike in creating multiple DINUs. I could even see it for Geico (one for men, one for women, one for first time drivers, one for 50+…). But that’s not my take-away from the current Geico ads, they all seem to appeal to a broad audience and it seems to be working. Puzzling. Are they an exception that proves a rule?


The Continuing Emergence of Cricket

In TSMWIF on May 8, 2008 at 7:40 pm

I’ve written about cricket a number of times over the last month, and it seems the sport is riding a wave of unprecedented popularity. More proof?

A feature article in yesterday’s NY Times, and now a survey showing that cricket is the favorite sport in Australia. Accoring to a Roy Morgan Research survey of 50,000 Aussies, 47% say they watch cricket on television (hat tip to Sportcal).





Photo credit: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Cricket probably isn’t the right play for every brand, but the sport is so distinctive that it should be a good fit for someone, and the sport’s supporters are so loyal you have a good chance of grabbing their attention.

TV DINUs – Sitcoms v. Dramas

In DINU on May 8, 2008 at 12:33 pm

I’ve watched my fair share of television over the years. I’ve enjoyed both dramas and sitcoms (along with reality shows, sports, documentaries, news, etc.). I think just about any genre can provide quality programming, but when viewed through the lens of the Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe, there is a clear distinction between sitcoms and dramas. Let’s do a quick test to illustrate the point:

Friends was a fun show with likeable actors and some pretty funny scripts. I’m guessing that there were roughly 200 episodes. That’s a decent sample size, I think. Now, let’s say you put all two hundred episodes on an iPod and then set the system to play the episodes in random order. If you then gave the iPod to a person who had never seen a single episode of Friends, would his enjoyment, or even understanding, of the show be greatly diminished with the episodes played in this jumbled order?

Sure the hairstyles would change, but that would almost literally be the only difference. Story arcs? Not so much. Character growth? Minimal. Perhaps the biggest single storyline of the entire run of the show was whether Rachel and Ross would be together. But they got together and split up so many times (we were on a break!), it didn’t really matter what the state of affairs was during a particular episode. I think it’s particularly hysterical that the title of each episode began with, “The one with…”, as if even the shows writers couldn’t tell one episode from another with much distinction.

Again, this isn’t a critique of the show exactly; I watched just about every week during the show’s run. And it was certainly a popular, successful show that captured the cultural zeitgeist of the time.

Now, compare Friends to another popular show of a roughly similar time period – The X Files. Yes, they had their one-off episodes, but by and large they created a mythology, a DINU that the viewers followed over the life of the show. If you jumped in only for the last four episodes on the series, you’d be utterly baffled.

Ok, well maybe sitcoms aren’t trying to create DINUs, that’s not their raison d’etre. Then I would ask, ‘why not?’ Why wouldn’t you want to build a property that creates fans to the extent The X-Files, The Sopranos and Twin Peaks did? For that matter, how about to the level The Simpsons has? Talk about a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe. And the irony is that The Simpsons live in a world where time stands still. No one has aged and the characters haven’t really changed, yet the creators of the show have created a universe that is rich in detail, far richer than just about any show in television history.

Another example that dramas build DINUs where sitcoms do not: The Law and Order and CSI franchises.  These aren’t quite spin-offs in the way Laverne & Shirley was a spin-off of Happy Days, or Cheers begat Fraser, but they clearly extend the DINU of the original shows. Can you imagine four different versions of Two and Half Men or My Name is Earl?

Maybe this is one of the reasons we see fewer and fewer traditional sitcoms on television. Certainly HBO could make a sitcom if they wanted to, but they don’t. HBO tells stories that engage viewers and by and large that means dramas like The Wire, Six Feet Under or Deadwood

Are there, or have there been, sitcoms that strive for something a bit deeper, or does the nature of the genre preclude it? M*A*S*H wasn’t exactly your traditional sitcom, but would fall into the parameters of the genre. Certainly it is a great example of transmedia storytelling, starting off as a novel before sliding across to film, a hit television show and spin-offs that branched out quite far from the original (Trapper John, M.D. was set some 20+ years after the end of the Korean War).

That program, especially near the end of its run, developed a strong DINU, mostly through the character of Hawkeye Pierce. The show’s finale features the mental breakdown of Pierce, the lead character. Can’t quite imagine that happening on How I Met Your Mother. It’s probably no coincidence that the series finale is still the single most watched television episode in history.

I’d love to see somebody take a chance on developing a different type of sitcom where the characters do indeed grow and evolve and the storylines last more than 30 minutes. If properties as disparate as The Simpsons and M*A*S*H can achieve success through building Deeply Immersive Narrative Universes it seems worth taking a shot.


Batman v. Iron Man – Battle of the DINU Brands

In DINU on May 7, 2008 at 10:25 am

Brilliant DIY video:

This is so great on so many levels.  How are these two franchises telling their stories, and to whom? How do the owners of these properties build DINU brands and still take into account the consumers’ ability to do things like this? Does a YouTube clip like this help, or hurt the franchise?





DINU brands // Transmedia Storytelling

In DINU on May 6, 2008 at 10:12 pm

I continue to discover more about Transmedia Storytelling and think about how it matches up with my concept of the Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe. In addition to the work of Henry Jenkins (find out more here and here), I’ve recently read the work of Jason Mittell. Both of these guys are crazy smart, and if you are interested in the future of storytelling, on TV and the movies, in video games and the 3rd and 4th screen, you should read their stuff.

You may also have seen the May issue of Fast Company, where the creators of shows like Heroes, Lost and Battlestar Galactica talk about the future of storytelling. Like Jenkins and Mittell, the talk is about storytelling across multiple media. I think this is an essential key to creating loyal fans.

I think ultimately there is another piece to the puzzle. The last several years have seen a clear desire amongst consumers to be more than passive recipients. The successful properties and franchises of the future will figure out how to harness the creative power of fans to help enhance the product.

Over my next several posts I hope to provide some examples from a variety of brands that effectively use their fans to push their narratives.

Pecha Kucha NY 5

In Ideas on May 1, 2008 at 8:45 am

Last night I attended Pecha Kucha NY 5 at Element. I was really excited by the idea of Pecha Kucha. It’s a presentation format utilizing PowerPoint. That’s pretty standard stuff for many of this, but there’s a twist. You only get 20 slides, and only 20 seconds per slide. The emphasis is on the visuals, so you don’t get slide after slide of bullet points. Cool idea. The execution, I was not as wild about.





Shown here: Rob Oden of Eco Securities (yeah, again not a great photo.)

At times it felt as if you were watching your friends slide show of his trip to the Grand Canyon. Most of the presentations failed to have a story structure or narrative. They lacked a build up and payoff, so slide 1 could have be switched with slide 18 and I don’t know that it would have made a difference. A couple of the presenters really tried to expand the concept and really tweaked the format, which was cool.

I think the idea is a strong one, having sat through dozens of text-heavy, overly-long, uninteresting presentations (both as part of the presenting team and the one being presented to). But you still got to tell a story.